The Jewish Chronicle

The star coach deported under Italy’s race law


ISRAELI drugmaker Teva Pharmaceut­ical Industries intends to close or divest 11 plants in 2019, in addition to the seven facilities already slated for closure during 2018. Despite this news, the multinatio­nal has continued a turnaround from the brink of complete collapse, strengthen­ing its financial stability after cutting its costs significan­tly — as well as thousands of jobs.

AT 34, in 1930 he became the youngest coach ever to win the Italian Premier League title — a feat he would repeat twice more. Yet accolades would count for nothing: with the implementa­tion of the 1938 Racial Laws, Hungarian-born Arpad Weisz became just another Jew and was forced to leave Italy.

Now the extraordin­ary story of this football legend who ended up as an Auschwitz statistic is told in a moving exhibition, ‘Arpad Weisz: If racism gets on to the pitch’, opening this week at Milan’s Memoriale della Shoah.

Using images from Matteo Matteucci’s atmospheri­c graphic novel on the subject, Arpad Weisz e il Littoriale, it charts Weisz’s life and football adventures in the Italy of the 1930s.

The story begins with his arrival in the country as a player; the move to coaching after a serious injury; his first scudetto — or championsh­ip badge — with Ambrosiana-Inter in 1930, and a subsequent two with Bologna in 1936 and 1937; and a memorable win against Chelsea in the 1937 Tournoi Internatio­nal de L’Expo Universell­e de Paris, a forerunner of the Champions League.

As a coach, Weisz was ahead of his time: charismati­c, a good communicat­or, a master tactician whose 1930 handbook The Game of Football encompasse­s technique, psychology, players’ characteri­stics and duties.

The book reflected Weisz’s hands-on approach and his nose for talent-scouting that spotted Giuseppe Meazza, a skinny 17-year-old who went on to become Italy’s first football superstar.

But, after 1938, Weisz was no longer welcome. He tried unsuccessf­ully to find work in France and appeared to get a lifeline coaching a Dutch side, Dordrecht, but that was short-lived.

In 1942, Arpad, his wife Elena and two children, Roberto and Clara, were deported to Auschwitz. Elena and the children were gassed immediatel­y, but Arpad himself survived until January 1944.

Forgotten for decades, Weisz has recently become a beacon in the fight against racism. First came a memorial plaque at Milan’s San Siro Stadium in 2012, then in 2013 an acclaimed biography, From the scudetto to Auschwitz, followed by a friendly tournament held every year in his name between the Inter and Bologna under-17 teams.

Most recently, during a match between Inter and Bologna, shirts bearing his name and the number 18 (which numericall­y means “life” in Hebrew) were exchanged.

Given Weisz’s story’s tragic ending, it seems particular­ly fitting that this exhibition should take place at Milan’s Shoah Memorial.

Located at what used to be platform 21 of the city’s central station, on a sublevel below the main tracks, this is where in the 1940s deportees were loaded on to livestock cars destined for the camps. It is a journey Weisz would have recognised only too well.

‘Arpad Weisz – Se il razzismo entra in campo’ will run in Milan until April 14

His wife and children were gassed at once, but lived on

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